In close Kimanis race, minority Chinese vote may tip scales in Warisan’s favour

Julia Chan
Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal poses for pictures after campaigning for the Kimanis by-election in Sinuka January 9, 2020. — Bernama pic

KIMANIS, Jan 17 — Lee is a businessman in the Shantung village in Ulu Kimanis who is being courted by both Warisan and Barisan Nasional for his vote that could make all the difference in this Saturday’s parliamentary by-election.

The Sino Sabahan said he knows little about either of the two candidates in the running to be Kimanis MP, but seems happy enough to trust that Chief Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal won’t choose the wrong man for the electorate.

“I don’t know either candidate well, but Shafie seems to know what the people want,” he told Malay Mail.

As a businessman, Lee said progress in the west coast seat south of Kota Kinabalu in the last one year and nine month since Warisan took power has been slow. But he felt it is still worth giving the new government a chance to prove itself.

“Sure, there are problems, but having an Opposition representative won’t help,” he said.

Pundits too think the ethnic Chinese voters of Kimanis look set to support the state government in Saturday’s polls, possibly giving Warisan the edge for the parliamentary seat as it comes down to the wire.

While analysts and campaigners remain uncertain about the majority Brunei /Malay and Kadazan Dusun voters, most agree that the small segment of ethnic Chinese voters appear to be leaning towards Warisan.

“This is based on my sampling of 500 voters from Kimanis, Bongawan and Membakut. They have indicated their preference,” Universiti Malaysia Sabah analyst James Alin told Malay Mail.

But he cautioned it was still early days, despite there being two days of campaigning left at the time of writing.

Kimanis has 29,644 voters in total, but for political expediency, some 20,000 are grouped collectively as Muslim natives regardless of their ancestry from Brunei, Bisaya or Bajau.

Another 8,000 are grouped as non-Muslim natives of Kadazan and Dusun races while the remaining 1,600 are Chinese and other races.

“It’s a small community but in a tight race, it may make all the difference,” James said.

Sabah DAP secretary Chan Foong Hin also thinks the signs are in favour of Warisan winning, with Shafie leading the campaign. DAP is allied to Warisan.

“The main factor here seems to be Shafie. First of all, he earned some clout with the community for making Christmas Eve a public holiday.

Chan also pointed out that the local Chinese are more likely to vote for a multiracial party than support Umno-BN, which has joined forces with the Islamist PAS and is leaning towards the right, after losing in the 2018 general elections.

“Under his leadership, Sabah also doesn't face the racial tensions like what is happening now in the peninsula,” he said, referring to the recent uproar over Chinese New Year decorations at SMK Puchong, a public school in Selangor triggered by a Malay Muslim lawyer.

Chan acknowledged the complaints of slowing business, but said that that was not a problem exclusive to Sabah.

“Even though people are not happy with something like bad business, they would not punish Warisan because of that,” he said.

Chan also said the current hot topic in Sabah on the Sabah Temporary Pass (PSS) held by foreign nationals residing in the state is less of a concern for the local Chinese community.

He said they recognised it as Opposition rhetoric designed to create unnecessary fear.

“For me, it's ridiculous to listen to Umno on this issue. We inherited the problem from them.  Should we punish Warisan because of PSS and vote in one more Umno seat in Parliament?

“That's the question I think those that are against PSS need to seriously think about,” he said.

At a Chinese New Year event in Ulu Kimanis yesterday, Shafie courted the Chinese by saying he was a chief minister for all Sabahans, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.

He said he knew the importance of ensuring all Sabahans were taken care off under his leadership, which included their wellbeing, aside from economic wealth.

He also said he needed more time to deliver on promises of economic prosperity, but reassured people that he had a plan for downstreaming oil and gas as well as reinstating Sabah’s rights in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.

“In the time we took over government, I got the 17 out of the 21 we asked for. Why did BN get in all those years in power. But still, I know 17 is not enough. We need more. We need to change the constitution, and we tried.

“We tried very hard to put ourselves back on equal ground, we took it to Parliament and we debated until the middle of the night. But Umno and Pas didn’t support us and now they are asking for your help, how can this happen?” he said.



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